Dermatomes (Artefacts) 1.Documentary photographs of mapping dermatomes 2.Dermatome Jeans ( 3 versions)3.Presentation of Mapping and research process on real body morphologies

Karen Fleming, John Charles McLachlan, Gabrielle Finn, Aoife Ludlow

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


Dermatomes are areas of skin supplied by a single spinal nerve and are important in illness and anaesthetics. There are standard maps of dermatomes in medical textbooks. Fleming was Principal investigator in a Wellcome Trust Funded team that rigorously mapped dermatomes onto living human body. in a number of collaborative workshops. This process was led by art and design but was not illustration. Together with medial collaborators from Durham University, Fleming developed a protocol to rigorously map the 2D data to living anatomy using cross-disciplinary teams to confirm standardization. The methodology was quantitative and qualitative. ‘Think Aloud’ Protocols (or TAP) captured responses. This enabled researchers to assess the process of task completion (rather than its final aesthetic or medical product). TAP was recorded concurrently and collected in retrospective analysis. The research revealed significant anomalies in the texts that had not previously been appreciated by professionals familiar with them. Further work examining how the craft processes of looking, seeing, translating and creating changes learning and understanding. FOUR purposes for the artefacts were identified in fieldwork- information, empathy, explanatory and narrative. Fleming and McLachlan and team members presented papers and demonstrations in education and in public contexts. Peer reviewed conference papers included Association of Medical Education in Europe (2009); Joint Conference National Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association (2009) ‘Textile Metaphors for Anatomy, The Body and Physical Difference’; European Textile Network International Conference 2008 (Keynote). Aside from clinical significance, how the conventional views came to be thus was questioned (leading to outcome 4), prompting new understanding of the maps which are found in most doctors' surgeriesThe resulting ‘Dermatomes’ body of work was published by exhibition/events with Flex and Ply at the Hunterian Museum of Anatomy (2010); Life Centre Newcastle (2010) exhibiting alongside Stelarc; Flowerfields Art Centre( 2010. One of the first pieces in the series ‘ Heidi Jump’ was exhibited alongside Incisions gown demonstrations at Science Museum, London, ‘Antennae Meet the Experts, New Developments in Surgery’ (2008) and at European Textile Network International Conference Exhibition (2008) where a keynote paper was also delivered at Linz University. The depth of engagement and collaboration was recognized in an invitation to Fleming to be a keynote speaker at the Wellcome Trust launch of ‘Medical Humanities Frontiers’ in September 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUniversity of Ulster / School of Medical Education, Durham University
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2009
Event'Does MY S3 look big in this?" Association of Medical Education Europe Conference (peer reviewed Presentation) - Palacio de Ferias y Congresos de Málaga / Spain
Duration: 29 Aug 20092 Sept 2009

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Foerster Otfrid 1933 ‘The dermatomes in man’, Brain 56 (1), pp.1-39.

Head, Henry & Campbell, Anthony 1900 ‘The pathology of herpes zoster and its bearing on sensory localisation’, Brain 23 (3), pp.353-523.

Keegan, Jay, Garrett, Frederic 1948 ‘The segmental distribution of the cutaneous nerves in the limbs of man’, Anatomical Record 102 (4), pp. 409-437
Event (exhibition): 4th International Conference of the European Society for the History
KarenFleming(1) ProfessorJohnMcLachlan(2) MissGabrielleFinn(2)
(1)ResearchInstituteArtandDesign, UniversityofUlster, (2)DurhamUniversity, UNITED KINGDOM
Anatomy is crucial in medicine and the public domain. However, anatomy is generally taught as a scientific discourse without aesthetic concerns. Textbooks contain bodymaps that students learn and use throughout their career. Dermatomes are areas of skin supplied by a single spinal nerve and are important in illness and anaesthetics, your doctor or physiotherapist’s surgery probably has a dermatome map. The information contained in such maps dates back to 1893 and beyond. Anatomy in medicine is diminishing in status. It has moved from a research-led science to a training tool. Anatomy has been reified as that which is ‘known’ and may be considered ‘complete’. The artifacts and the body itself are normally presented as being value free and “scientific”. The technology and design used to visualize and interpret the data is sophisticated. However when artist Karen Fleming and scientist John McLachlan mapped dermatomes from the most widely used sources onto real bodies they found that things weren't as simple as they seemed. This highly visual presentation traces the evolution of the maps through the 20th century. A viral erosion in the successive redrafting of unaccredited ‘knowledge’ will be contrasted with the resilience of content through successive adaption and modification. In this context the artefacts and the body itself are normally presented as being value free and “scientific” but it will be shown that medical illustrations are much more heavily cultural than is generally perceived. Before photography artists played an essential role in anatomy. Evolving artistic conventions, prevailing design values, ethics, politics and rebranding in successive illustrations have influenced the scientific interpretation of what purport to be neutral objects. The paper also develops a narrative to conserve and (re-) acknowledge the pioneering legends (Head and Campbell 1900, Foerster 1933 Keegan and Garrett 1948) whose research originated the clinically significant maps.
Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Societat Catalana d’Historia de la Ciéncia I de la Técnica (SCHCT) / Barcelona
Event (exhibition): 15th European Textile Network Conference and Exhibition
• Introduction
• Art and science Cross disciplinary context
• Body Mapping The methodology employed
o Incision Gown An early collaboration
o Body Painting Main focus of this presentation
• Outcomes for learners
o Knowledge- Anatomy in medicine, art and allied health professions
o Behavior and skills -Professional and Communication Skills
• Outcomes for researchers and academics
• Future

There has been recent concern about science teaching in the UK, only this weekend the threats to higher education funding in the current economic climate are headlined as threats to science in particular. S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects have also been the focus for the recent increase in undergraduate places available in 2009/10 tn universities in the UK to address i the increase in applications attributed to the precarious youth employment situation. It has recently been argued that creative’s are put off studying science by the plodding conformity.

‘Modern Scientist are ‘dull and getting duller’ because the career path required to join science weeds out anyone interesting, creative or exceptionally intelligent’ (Corbyn, 2009)

One of the aspects that was deemed problematic by the authors of articles in Times Higher Education and the Oxford Magazine was a perceived requirement for social inoffensiveness. Professor Charlton argued that ideas for wooing the ‘crazies’ back to science are not going to come from within the discipline.

This presentation, ‘Dermatome’ arises from a Wellcome Trust funded collaboration between artists and medics at the Universities of Ulster and Durham. The project explores aesthetic approaches to conveying factual information about hidden maps of the body.

As a multi disciplinary project it has had to mine, then negotiate and manage knowledge flows between collaborators in order to facilitate knowledge creation and sharing.
Kunstuniversität Linz (LINZ UNIVERSITY OF ART) / Austria
19-07-2009 / 31-07-2009
Event (exhibition): 'Does my S3 look big in this? Crafting invisible maps of the body'
Does my S3 look big in this? Crafting invisible maps of the body

The role of making and the haptic in learning, professionalism and developing medics’ emotional intelligence will be examined.
Examples from a Wellcome Trust funded collaboration of medical educators and artists at 2 UK Universities will-
1. Illustrate the use of cross-disciplinary methodologies and artefacts in medical education environments.
2. Demonstrate that mapping from reference material onto real anatomies has implications for learning, interpretation, behaviour and application of knowledge and skills.
3. Conclude with how cross-disciplinary engagement enhances scientific understanding and contributes to a sustainable disciplinary curriculum.

Culturally constructed views are challenged through material interactions and the creation of crafted structures mapping dermatomes, Langer lines and Blashko lines. ‘Doing’ is an important part of deep learning that is reinforced by the kinaesthetic engagement. The ‘desensitisation’ of medical students has been seen as a desirable outcome of their education. In a context of the body (medical/aesthetic/cultural), it will be shown that meaning, value and behaviour can be developed in cross-disciplinary contexts through making, visual mapping, tactility and engagement with crafted artifacts challenging existing canons. FOUR purposes will be described- information, empathy, explanatory and narrative- through THREE engagements- incision gown, body painting, and dermatome ‘jeans’ –

“Does my S3 look big in these?”
14th Ottawa Conference (Assessment of Competence in Medicine and the Healthcare Professions) / Hyatt Regency Miami, Florida
15-05-2010 / 19-05-2010
Event (exhibition): Newcastle Science Fest '10
Invited exhibition contribution.
Live performance of mapping and body painting process and exhibition of artefacts.
Included 'Designer Bodies' at Centre for Life
Thu 18 March:6pm-9pm Adults 18+
Fellow exhibitors included Stellarc
Centre for Life / Newcastle Upon Tyne
12-03-2010 / 21-03-2010
Event (exhibition): Keynote presentation: 'NEw Frontiers: Medical Humanities
Keynote presentation of dermatome research at the Wellcome Trust launch of a new Funding Strategy.
Flex and Ply: The Body, Aesthetics, and Symbolism in Medicine and Art. Public Engagement in the Medical Humanities Karen Fleming, Professor of Textile Art, University of Ulster John McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education, University of Durham
Fellow speakers included George Rousseau, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Oxford,Brian Hurwitz, D’Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts, Kings College London
The objectives of the Medical Humanities Frontiers Meeting in 2009 were to:

launch the Trust's new Medical History and Humanities (MHH) programme
explore the concept of "historically grounded" research
identify important questions with respect to historical and related studies on medical sciences and health
setting an ambitious research agenda
consider how an interdisciplinary approach might be used to answer research questions
provide a forum to encourage networking and to foster collaborations.
Wellcome Trust launch of new funding strategy / Wellcome Trust HIghgate HOuse Northampton
Event (exhibition): Textile Metaphors for Anatomy Hidden discourses of the medical body
Textile Metaphors for Anatomy

Background- Cross disciplinary, cross institution collaboration between a medical educator and a materials artist.

We present 4 different discourses of the body which we identify as -
• The Aesthetic
• The Erotic
• The Scientific
• The Symbolic

By ‘Scientific’, we mean the rationalist approach, and include the medical body. By ‘symbolic’, we mean the body as possession (‘My Body’) and the body as identity (‘Myself’). We acknowledge the concepts of the male and the medical gaze, but prefer the term discourse since, in our thinking and practice, the recipient of the gaze is an active rather than a passive partner in the development of meaning.

Overlap between the erotic and the aesthetic body is well recognised and documented. However, other overlaps seem to us to have been less well recognised, and lead to the occurrence of cultural dissonance. The introduction will include vignettes, recorded by ethnographic field techniques (all used by permission). These will identify and illustrate clear overlap between the symbolic meaning of the body to the individual and the medico-scientific meaning, leading to the expression of resentment and possible of erotic elements.

The focus of the presentation is on the neglected overlap between the scientific and the aesthetic through the realisation of medical and anatomical phenomena in 2D and 3D material forms. In teaching medical students, the co-authors of this research, have been exploring aesthetic approaches to conveying factual information. One example we will show is a transparent silk gown with multiple zippers, developed by the artist co-author, which conveys major sites of operations. We will show how the gown, as we have used it in specialist medical and in public environments, adopts a set of symbolic meanings, a cultural noise, alongside the literal and factual content. The symbolic significance, in this case, relates to the body through anonymity, through violation and through exposure.

There are hidden aspects of the body that are not well known to the public. Three examples that are the focus of our current research are Dermatomes, Langer Lines and Blashko Lines. These can be represented by body painting and body projection. We will illustrate the operation of body projection and propose that this (projecting underlying structures onto the surface of the body) has an aesthetic impact that viewing the structures themselves (projected, for instance, on to a flat screen) lacks. The presentation will show how such body painting can overcome embarrassment about the body, which we propose is due to the aesthetic experience defusing the symbolic body (for both the painter and the painted). Furthermore, our mapping of Dermatomes, Langer Lines and Blaschko Lines on disparate body morphologies through body painting, and in 3D reconstruction, has identified critical anomalies and inconsistencies in the leading medical textbook representations of these important phenomena.

This research emerges from ‘Flex + Ply’, a Wellcome Trust Funded Arts Award to explore textile metaphors for anatomy. The current work will culminate in an exhibition in 2010.

Prof. John McLachlan
Prof. Karen Fleming

Flex+Ply Research Assistant: Aoife Ludlow
Joint Conference National Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association / New Orleans
08-04-2009 / 12-04-2009
Outputmediatype: art outcomes wearable medical diagrams and images of diagrams mapped onto real body morphologies


  • dermatome
  • Langer
  • textiles
  • mapping
  • anatomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Dermatomes (Artefacts) 1.Documentary photographs of mapping dermatomes 2.Dermatome Jeans ( 3 versions)3.Presentation of Mapping and research process on real body morphologies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this